How to navigate through "office politics" as a new joiner?

office politics
New answer on Jun 10, 2020
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 09, 2020

I have worked in an investment bank previously, and people in my team was very competitive and aggressive. The company culture is more like "up or out" - you deliver, otherwise you go. As a result, when I first joined the firm I feel that I was isolated and people are not friendly and aren't willing to provide support. In some extreme cases, I even felt some people at my same level was "hostile" against me. The situation became a bit better after a few weeks, but this kind of company culture still freaks me out.

As I am switching career to consulting now, I'm wondering whether company culture is similar - is the team environment truly collaborative, or actually there is a lot of office politics going on? I would also like to seek advice on how to strategically build relationships with colleagues when you join a new firm and know nobody. What are some tips / advice that I should bare in mind?

Thank you !!!

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Ian
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replied on Jun 09, 2020
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Hi there,

I can tell you it's nothing like an investment bank, so don't worry!

That being said, I think the general rules below are good to follow for any career.

1) Tread carefully when you don't know what you don't know - i.e. when you join a new firm (or enter a new client), get the lay of the land before you challenge or aling yourself with x person

2) Build a reputation for just being good, and the rest will follow - Get your work done. Do it well. Pro-actively communicate and flag issues. And, perhaps most importantly (because what I've just said is table stakes), make your work visible

3) Find the people you can trust, but still be careful what you say - Find your allies over time. Find the people you can rely on. Pick a select few that you can truly be open with, but pick carefully...you just never know who might let something slip

4) Avoid saying anything negative (again, unless you truly need a vent, and it's with a person you trust) - First, no-oone likes a negative person (be a go-getter and can-do person). Second, it's just not a good mindset. We all need an occasional vent, but be known as the person who's optimistic, positive, and energizes others :)

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Axel
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replied on Jun 09, 2020
Bain Consultant | Interviewer for 3 years at Bain |Passionate about coaching |I will make you a case interview Rockstar

Hi!

I think you need to focus on two things to position yourself for success at a consulting firm:

1. Deliver on your tasks and projects - if you do this you will quickly deliver a good reputation and will be more desirable for managers in terms of staffing you on their projects. If you get more projects you will get more exposure to different people in the office and you can build good relationships.

2. Be likable - Come to the office with a positive attitude, invest in socializing with your colleagues (Friday beers, eating lunch with people), and help out your peers if they need your help. This way you will quickly be able to build a positive image in the office and some good relationships with senior people.

If you can achieve the above two points you should have nothing to worry about.

-A

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Anonymous replied on Jun 10, 2020

Dear A,

In general, the culture in consulting is less competitive than in the investment banking and is more friendly, at least within the teams. I have never had such issues as you have described.

Also what comes up to my mind:

1. You need to focus on yourself. So respecting others come from respecting yourself. This is the key skill that I recommend you to develop - understand how valuable you as a personality really are.

2. Treat others as equals. Not as your bosses and not as your subordinates , but as equal persons to you and build a trustful relationship over time.

3. Work on your convincing and communication skills, so you need to learn how to argument, contrargument and defend your own opinion without becoming too arogant.

So the balance is pretty tricky.

Hope it helps,

Good luck,

André

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Vlad
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replied on Jun 10, 2020
McKinsey / Accenture Alum / Got all BIG3 offers / Harvard Business School

Hi,

A couple of points here:

  • The culture is definitely more collaborative within the team
  • There is a lot of politics related to client work, staffing, etc. Just don't deal with it. You can not outsmart the system
  • Make friends with absolutely everyone
  • Remember - the key criteria for success is - the client should be happy

Best

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Robert
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replied on Jun 09, 2020
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Hi Anonymous,

No need to worry about office politics when joining the consulting firm in the entry-level ranks.

Office politics gets a big deal shortly before partner level. Until that point in time, you will enjoy the contrast to IB.

Hope that helps - if so, please be so kind and give it a thumbs-up with the green upvote button below!

Robert

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Clara
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replied on Jun 09, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

It will have absolutely nothing to do.

In consulting, people truly help each other a lot.

Here, you are mostly competing against yourself, and not the rest. Usually, you are not even staffed with people your tenure in the same engagement.

Hence, just be approchable, helpful and a team worker, everything else will come.

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

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Antonello
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replied on Jun 09, 2020
McKinsey | MBA professor for consulting interviews

Hi, you are going to find a truly different environment. Your teammates will often become your best friends, since for every project you are going to spend with them a big amount of time and they'll probably be the only people you know in the city (when you're away at the client's). The result is a culture collaborative, friendly, where you have the chance to build true realationship

Best,
Antonello

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Anonymous replied on Jun 09, 2020

Hello,

From my experience, there really is a strong team spirit in consulting; people help each other and there is a real culture of sharing.

This does not mean, however, that everything is rosy. You must quickly make yourself known to managers, principals and partners because, beyond doing a good job, making it known is essential.

Do not hesitate to ask for regular feedback (even from partners!), to speak to a lot of people and to be available when you are not staffed on a project.

However, when starting, the most important thing is to perform on your project!

I hope it helps.

David

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Anonymous replied on Jun 09, 2020

Hi there,

As a new joiner, there isn't much politics to worry about in consulting - consultants change managers and working teams every 2-3 months, so there is no time for politics.

Just be approachable, likable and a good friend - You will be spending 10-14 hours per day working with the same people every day, so a friendly and positive behavior is crucial.

So focus on delivering your tasks and being friendly (especially when the situation gets super stressful) and have a positive attitude.

Best of luck.

Khaled

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Ian gave the best answer

Ian

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